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23 January 2019

Commons Confidential: Why the DUP’s next bung could be £8bn

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster. 

By Kevin Maguire

The heat felt by Tory Remainers from the party’s Brextremist grass roots is no more intense than in Beaconsfield, backyard of “Ode to Joy” hummer Dominic Grieve. How badly the pro-Remain former attorney general has fallen out with his local party may be judged by the constituency association inviting to speak, on 14 March, one Andrew Bridgen, a hardline no-deal quitter who sleeps under a Union Jack bedspread and makes Nigel Farage look a dispassionate Leaver. Burly Leicestershire MP Bridgen isn’t expecting his Westminster enemy within to attend. Grieve risks being dumped, unless he retires.

The cost of the DUP protection racket is poised to soar for Theresa May in the bung parliament if she survives Brexit. The two-year, £1bn deal to keep the Tories in power is up for renegotiation this summer and Northern Ireland’s bowler-hatted extortionists will demand a higher price, having defeated Labour’s attempted no-confidence vote. My snout with the sash yelped that their opening gambit will be up to £8bn. The Orangemen want their Tory dividend.

Frank Field informs me he’s continued paying his £130 monthly Parliamentary Labour Party fees since resigning the whip in August. The maverick MP largely follows chief whip Nick Brown’s voting instructions and is lobbying general secretary Jennie Formby to restore his party membership. Field was accused by Corbynistas of using the summer’s anti-Semitism row as an exit excuse. Unless he escapes pay-no-say limbo land, Frank Field will be unable to stand for Labour in Birkenhead at the next election.

Away from her fight with the BBC over Fiona Bruce’s Question Time ignorance, Diane Abbott is gaining an unenviable reputation as a queue jumper. Labour’s Mike Gapes spluttered as she pushed in front of him at a Westminster coffee bar. Surely lines aren’t only for the little people.

Up piped Durham stirrer Kevan Jones to inquire wryly whose reputation took the biggest hit when Corbynista vegan brickie Chris Williamson and Warley warrior John Spellar, a hammer of the left, united at the PLP to warn that Labour backing another referendum would be ruinous. My centrist informant muttered both.

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Small world when it turns out actor Steven Maddocks – who plays Herbert Morrison in A Modest Little Man, the playwright Francis Beckett’s comedy about Clement Attlee running at south London’s lefty Bread & Roses pub theatre – lived in the former Labour leader’s old room while a student at Oxford. I’m assured the digs were characteristically unassuming, alas.

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

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This article appears in the 23 Jan 2019 issue of the New Statesman, Who’s running Britain?